More students at the University of Alabama tested positive for COVID-19 this week than any week since early September, coinciding with a nationwide rise in new infections in recent weeks.

According to data uploaded Friday afternoon to the UA System's COVID-19 Dashboard, 115 students in Tuscaloosa tested positive for COVID-19 in the last seven days.

The Capstone has not reported a triple-digit number of cases since 119 students tested positive in early September.

The increase may be due in large part to free exit testing for students who are preparing to leave campus -- Friday is the final day of in-person instruction at the university and most students will now leave Tuscaloosa for Thanksgiving break then prepare for and take their final exams virtually from home.

According to a press release from a UA System spokesperson, 2,000 students in Tuscaloosa have already participated in the free exit testing.

Classes are scheduled to resume after an extended winter break on January 13th.

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Even as new cases rose this week, only six of the 518 rooms reserved for isolating and quarantining sick students in Tuscaloosa were occupied as of Friday -- a little more than 1 percent of the space available.

At UAB, 43 students tested positive this week, a significant decrease after 62 new cases were reported there last week.

At UAH, a record-high 31 students tested positive for the virus this week.

In the release, a spokesperson called the increase in new cases "minimal" and said reporting on the results of COVID testing on all three campuses would resume when the spring semester begins in January.

Finis St. John, the chancellor of the University of Alabama System, praised all the hard work that has allowed its three universities to conduct in-person classes in an unprecedented semester.

“We knew from the outset of the global pandemic that the world-renowned medical expertise in the UAB Health System would be the most valuable resource any university could hope for in helping keep our students, faculty and staff safe. They have met and far surpassed our expectations,” St. John said in the release. “We are finalizing the updated plan for Spring and much work remains to be done, but we are pleased with the outcome of this Fall semester and the enormous sacrifices our students, faculty, staff and families have made. On behalf of our Board and leadership team, I want to express my heartfelt thanks."

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